Former American football player Ben Steele makes rosaries out of steel beads and encourages men to pray the Rosary. He discussed it in a recent interview with the National Catholic Register.
The athlete, who continues to work professionally as a coach, says that the Rosary is his “weapon,” using the same term as St. Padre Pio in reference to spiritual battles.
In addition to personally assembling the rosaries, this imposing man, nearly 6 ½ feet tall, gives them to other coaches, players, and employees of the NFL. Although some receive the gift with indifference, others value it and are interested in learning more about this Marian devotion that is so characteristically Catholic.
His grandmother’s testimony
Steele himself inherited this devotion from his grandmother. “She has always been dedicated to the Rosary and the Catholic faith in general, which had an influence on me growing up,” he told Register reporter Trent Beattie.
It was from his grandmother that he learned to pray the Rosary every day. “It’s so easy to do. It sums up Christianity in a simple way, and it can be prayed anywhere,” he says. In fact, Steele turns to the Rosary often, particularly in adversity, when, according to him, “things have gotten particularly stressful.” Steele continues:
“It’s easy to just dive into your work during stressful times, but I’ve found that stopping for prayer helps in terms of prioritization, which in turn helps for the execution of the right things in the right order.”
In addition to his grandmother, Ben Steele learned from the positive influence of an athletic director he had during high school, Jim Selke: he also made rosaries—and gifted several of them to Steele. “Every time I was with a new NFL team, he would send a set of beads based on the colors of that team: green and yellow for the Packers, silver and black for the Raiders, etc.,” he tells Beattie.
Rosaries for men
The former athlete and now coach opines about making rosaries that might appeal more to men:
There are so many feminine-looking or generic-looking rosaries, so I wanted to make ones that have a masculine look. That led me into, not just darker beads — often of steel — and larger crucifixes, but stronger cords. The Rosary has been likened to a chain connecting heaven and earth, so I thought such a chain should be strong enough to hold onto and be pulled upward with.
Inspired by Blessed Bartolo Longo
This metaphor seems to really inspire Ben Steele, who comments that the Rosary must be really strong to be able to pull even a man with many sins into heaven, as was the case with Blessed Bartolo Longo before his conversion.
Steele declares himself devoted to this apostle of the Rosary, who, before his conversion, feared that “because of his enormous sins, he would not be saved and would have to suffer eternally in hell. He almost despaired of salvation, yet he was saved through praying the Rosary.”
Steele refers explicitly to St. Padre Pio, and shows that he has his priorities in line: “Padre Pio called the Rosary his weapon, so we should see it as such, not just to win a game, but in our battle for salvation. It really is a war to get to heaven, so we need all the help we can get.”
This is why as a coach, who also is particularly devoted to St. Michael the Archangel, he “trains” his team for this very battle, gifting them the “weapon” to win this spiritual war. “It’s a part of yourself that you’re passing along, so it’s very satisfying to see players or coaches praying the Rosary before games on the beads that I had assembled for them.”